January 31, 2010

WSJ on the 4Q09 GDP Report and ‘Animal Spirits’

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:15 am

The key paragraphs:

Slower inventory draw-downs in the quarter contributed 3.4% to that growth number, but a turn in the inventory cycle is normally the first sign of an economy emerging from recession. Given how deep the recent recession was, we might have hoped for an even bigger bounce. The rebuilding of inventories will likely continue to add to growth into this year, but clearly inventories can’t outgrow final demand forever.

For the recovery to be sustained, businesses will have to start investing again, and faster than the 2.9% annual rate of last quarter, which remains relatively weak for this point in a recovery. And for that, we need a revival of animal spirits.

Of course, WSJ’s editorialists are referring to the “animal spirits” ascribed to Keynes, the ones that positively drive economies in confident, non-threatening environments. Keynes correctly identified an aspect of human psychology while being wrong about almost everything else, including the idea that government stimulus will ignite those spirits. Maybe it would, if the stimulus were applied to worthwhile things and didn’t include heavy doses of pure handouts and low-priority/no-priority items. But that’s not how it ever turns out in the real world.

Unfortunately, negative “animal spirits” predominate now, because the government is being run by a crony-capitalist, “who will we go after next?” administration. The natural reaction is to take no chances, curry favor and make concessions where possible, and to otherwise take cover until things get better.

I’m beginning to question my hope that equipment and software may save us (the “Windows 7 Recovery” cited at Update 2 in my Friday GDP post) based on this statement in a New York Times editorial:

Much of the recent upsurge in business purchases of equipment and software was likely due to a rush to take advantage of an investment tax break before it expired in December.

If true (I’m not so sure, because I suspect a lot businesses might think the break will be extended anyway), editorial writers at the Times are quite justified in worrying about a “renewed recession.” Of course, they don’t understand that the government uber alles approach they have advocated is why the recession as normal people define it that went from 3Q08 and 2Q09 was so deep in the first place.

AP Headline Tells Readers DOJ Lawyers Approved Torture; Article Content Differs

Well if you can’t win the propaganda war by twisting the content of something you don’t like, you can at least plant a presumptive seed in the heads of those who will only see a story’s headline.

That seems to be the logic behind an unbylined Associated Press report this morning. Its headline (“Report: No sanctions for lawyers who OK’d torture”) would tend cause anyone not reading further to believe that what was under review is indisputably considered “torture.” But that is not the case, and the underlying article itself proves it.

Here is a graphic capture of the first few paragraphs of the AP report:


Note that the second paragraph refers to “so-called torture memos.” The word “torture” does not appear anywhere else in the report.

There is widespread disagreement as to whether waterboarding fits the legal definition of torture. The AP report also fails, as so many other reports relating to the controversy have, to note three important points the linked Newsmax article makes:

Only three terrorists have been subjected to waterboarding, and the technique has not been employed since 2003.

…. In fact, U.S. special forces are subjected to waterboarding as part of their training in case they are captured and experience the procedure.

…. The three terrorists who were subjected too waterboarding are Abu Zubaydah, Osama bin Laden’s chief of operations; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole; and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

In these cases waterboarding and other coercive techniques, such as forcing prisoners to stand for hours, succeeded in extracting intelligence that led to the capture of key al-Qaida operative planning terrorist attack against Americans.

…. “Waterboarding was employed on only three terrorists who were not cooperating, and the information they ultimately provided helped stave off attacks that could have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.”

In a later sentence, the AP writes (hopes?) that “The finding is likely to unsettle interest groups who contended there should be sanctions for Bush administration lawyers who paved the way for tough interrogations, warrantless wiretapping and other coercive tactics.”

An honestly headlined report would at least have put quotes around the word “torture.” A more accurate headline would have replaced the T-word with “enhanced interrogations,” either with or without quotes. But excuse me for questioning whether honesty or accuracy was the goal.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Holy Father praises model provided by newly beatified Spaniard

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:57 am

From Vatican City:

Jan 24, 2010 / 12:20 pm

After the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI brought attention to the recently beatified Blessed Jose Samso i Elias. On Saturday, the martyred Spanish priest became the first person ever to be beatified in the Archdiocese of Barcelona.

He was “a true witness of Christ, (who) died forgiving his persecutors,” said the Pope of the man. “For priests, especially for parish priests, he constitutes a model of dedication to catechesis and charity to the poor.”

According to the archdiocese, the priest, known by the Archbishop of Barcelona in the 1920′s as “the premier catechist in the diocese,” was famous also for his charity and very active and successful in pursuing new vocations as a spiritual director.

He was killed by a firing squad in the cemetery of Mataró, Spain for being a priest. Before he was shot, he attempted to embrace his executioners and forgave them for actions “as Christ forgave those who nailed him to the cross.”

Go here for the rest of the story.